Gospel legend Willie Banks was born in Raymond, MS, where he started singing at age five; a alumnus of acts ranging from the Jackson Southernaires to the Flying Clouds to the Trumpets of Joy, he formed his own group, the Southernaires, in 1968. Upon signing to the Peacock label, they debuted with the album Heaven Must Be a Beautiful Place
; in 1972, however, Banks dissolved the group, forming the Messengers and signing on with the small Nashville label HSE; the group's albums, including God's Goodness
, For the Wrong I've Done
, Mother Why
and Still in Charge, were mainstays of the Billboard gospel charts throughout the decade to follow. On July 6, 1981, tragedy struck when the Messengers' tour van plunged off a highway near Atlanta, plummeting nearly 50 feet; one member of the group was killed and Banks' body was thrown from the wreckage, where he lay near death for several days. After a long recovery period, he and the Messengers signed with Malaco in 1988, issuing Look at the Blessings
. Banks died February 1, 1993, although the Messengers continued performing well after his passing.